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Civil Theft Lawsuits May Be Used to Recover Personal and Business Property

By: Jeff Lieser Posted on: Sunday, May 5th, 2019

When someone wrongfully takes your property, you can use Florida’s civil theft Statute (F.S. 772.11) to recover the property and/or seek damages. This law is designed to make the victim whole after a theft and encompasses a wide range of “property.” Individuals and businesses can use the civil theft law to reclaim property, recover damages, and more. The same Statute offers protection against exploitation of the elderly.

What Constitutes “Theft”

A successful civil theft claim requires that you prove:

  1. The statutory elements of theft; and
  2. Felonious intent.

This essentially means that you must prove that you owned the property and that the other person took it or denied you the use of it knowing that they did not have a legal right to the property.

What is Property?

Under this law, property has a broad definition. The property must have value and can include: tangible and intangible personal property and real property.

Key Aspects of a Civil Theft Claim

Before filing a civil theft claim for damages the plaintiff must serve a 30 day written cure notice to the defendant. The notice must include a demand for treble damages (three times the amount) if the defendant fails to timely pay.

A civil theft lawsuit must be initiated within 5 years after the cause of action accrues or within 5 years from the date that the civil theft conduct ends.

Trial

At trial, the plaintiff must prove the civil claim with “clear and convincing evidence,” which is higher than the “preponderance of the evidence” burden of proof that other civil lawsuits must meet.

The type of evidence that the plaintiff must present will depend on the nature of the claim. This may include theft, possession of altered property, or dealing in stolen property.

The jury or judge will determine the actual damages that the plaintiff sustained and, if actual damages are found, multiply that amount by three. The court will also make a determination as to the amount of attorney’s fees and interest to be assessed. No punitive damages are allowed.

Closing

Civil theft claims may arise from a variety of circumstances because of the broad definition of property.

If you believe you have been the victim of civil theft or have been served pre-suit notice, please contact the attorneys at Lieser Skaff Alexander. Our skilled lawyers have extensive experience in this area and have represented both sides in civil theft lawsuits.